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bear by san

March 2017

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bear by san

This isn't so much a link salad as a bit of escarole with dressing....

But for those of us of the generation that famously never expected to see the back side of 25, this is worth a read. You know, when we woke up every morning convinced that it was going to happen sooner or later, this is pretty much how most of us figured it would start...

pecunium: Stanislav Petrov saved your life.


That would have been four days after my twelfth birthday.

I wrote an essay on the experience of surviving to adulthood as a member of Generation X some eleven years ago. It's very dated now--it was written as a responsorial to a spate of national media attention to the "slacker" generation, and how Baby Boom America (remember the era of Thirtysomething?) needed to fear for its future, and it's directed to the hypothetical Baby Boomer Journalist Afraid of Gen X--but I've had it online for nostalgia's sake.

I can only speak for my friends in this, for the tight circle of acquaintances I went to high school and college with. But within those limits, I can say that I think my generation reacted to 25 the way most generations are supposed to react to 30--with shock and reassessment. And not so much, in our case, because we suddenly became aware of our mortality, sagging bellies and fine hairline cracks, but because we realized that if we had, somehow, miraculously made it to 25 despite the sort of gnawing understated terrors of the Reagan Cold War, then we--and the planet--might make it another fifty or a hundred years, and bloody hell, we'd better come up with a plan.

Gosh, you know, I can't remember the last time I've heard somebody refer to Generation X as a demographic? We're just consumers now.

Anyway, here it is:


We had books and stories: War Day. The Cold and the Dark. "The Manhattan Phone Book (abridged)." "Damnation Alley." Nuclear War: What’s In It For You. You made us watch Threads and The Day After and read Hiroshima in school, and we have never forgiven you. We imagined dying like Marie Curie, fingers rotting as she recorded the progress of her disease. We imagined a much different "end of history."

Nuclear war was too big to worry about, so we accepted it. In the event of a nuclear holocaust, you had bomb shelters and "duck and cover." We had plans to drive to the Pratt & Whitney or Sikorsky plant and sit on the hoods of the cars with the radio turned up, drinking from a bottle of whisky and holding a sun reflector. Nero had a point: when the end is inevitable, do it in style... We had accepted our deaths. Now we are standing in the sunlight blinking, and wondering what to do with our suddenly long and frightening lives.

 Understand: we never expected to live this long.



Here's what Wikipedia has to say.

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If I were writing that essay today, it would be about one sentence: "See Grosse Point Blank." Martin figured it out a little later in life than most of us did, but that is, in so many ways, the perfect Gen X movie.

"You mean I'm not dead? My existence in the world carries some continued weight? How weird is that?!" *beat* "Shit. Maybe I'd better develop a moral compass and a, you know, plan."
Not only did we not expect to make it, our parents and teachers didn't really expect us to make it, either.

You know, I think you're right about that.

Was 13th Gen that book about how the slackers were going to save the world? I seem to remember some media on that. (I may have even read it.)

Yanno, we may yet get out chance. It sure as heck needs saving, anyway.
Thank you.
Welcome to the blog. Come back any time.
This is a great idea.
For me, 10 days after I turned 15.

And you know, that was also the month the Russians shot down the Korean airliner, and I remember sitting around with friends discussing quite seriously how we expected nuclear war before we graduated high school. We talked about our parents' "Duck and Cover" drills during the Cold War, and about how much smarter we were because we realized hiding under a desk wasn't going to save us and the first to go would be the lucky ones anyway.

Beautiful essay, Bear-Goddess.
Hiding under a desk wasn't going to save us...

Yeah. I lived across the street from the Trident nuclear submarine base. It was a great comfort to me to live at such an obvious ground zero.
Welcome to the blog, and stop by any time. pecunium is the root source of most of the really interesting political stuff around here.

I should clarify and say that I've never found environmentalism irrelevant; it's vitally relevant. To us. The problem was the "save the planet" campaigns, that make it seem as if environmentalism is this alien, elevated thing that's about protecting the spotted owls or the Galapagos tortoises. And it is....

...but the idiots out there who don't realize that the issue is saving the humans, too... well, you know. *eyeroll*
What a great story. I was a year old...

When I was somewhat older than that, I went through my parents' bookshelves and found a book called "Talking to your children about nuclear war." It was pretty enthralling. (My parents, in point of fact, never did talk to me about nuclear war). It was a glimpse into a very scary world, and I fell right on the line between thinking this was the world as it was but no one had informed me, and thinking that my parents' generation sure believed some weird stuff.
It was really scary. They made us read Hiroshima as sophomores in high school, I remember, with its graphic descriptions of radiation survivors, and I remember also how freaky it was.
For my ancient generation, it was the Cuban missle crisis.
Mine too (I was eleven and a half, and I didn't think we were going to survive).

Fine essay - neatly wrong-foots the older generation, so that any praise appears to be patronising.

...We are obscene lawless hideous dangerous dirty violent and young...

We are forces of chaos and anarchy
Everything they say we are we are
And we are very
Proud of ourselves
I read your essay and thought "Wow". I then went and read the bit about Petrov and my mind went numb.

...still absorbing, but thank you for the links to both...
I'm going to send him a card. I wonder if he reads enough English for "Thank you."?
I guess growing up on the southern side of the globe somewhat muted the threat of nuclear war for me, because it never felt quite real. Talk of nuclear winters was a popular schoolyard "yeah, but what if...!" scare topic, but always one that'd happen to someone else, somewhere else in the world.

26 Sept 1983 might have been a rather rude awakening for the ten-and-a-bit-year-old me...
*hug*

I think, in a lot of ways, writing Scardown was a catharsis of sorts for me with regard to this. And I think growing up in the Reagan era shows up a lot in the stuff I write, with its apocalyptic politics and brinksmanship.

George Carlin once said, "People are okay taken two or three at a time. Beyond that number, they tend to choose up sides and wear armbands."

Thank you, Mr. Petrov, for knowing when to peel the armband off.

(Anonymous)

I was fifteen. I didn't expect to die, but I expected to have to learn how to survive. Does the name Bradford Angier mean anything any more? During my preteen years I took his wilderness survival books out of the library multiple times, along with the 'Foxfire' series and many others. Three months after my 18th birthday, they announced (while we were in school) that we were bombing Libya. You could tell which of the guys in class had already turned 18 by their reaction.

Yah. You'd wake up and discover that Reagan had started yet another war...
Oops..that previous 'anonymous' note was me....
Speaking as someone who was 14 in 1978, I thought Reagan was going to kill us all.

Jay, too young for the baby boom, too old for Gen-X, therefore member of no cool cultural claque whatsoever
You're young enough for Gen-X. (Also old enough for the boom, if that's where your cultural milieu drew you.)
Yes! I never expected to live past 30. Now that I'm 42 (eeep!), I'm not sure just what to do with the whole other lifetimes I'm getting.
I keep thinking I'm running out of time, even now. Isn't that funny?
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